What is a Bystander?

What is a Bystander?

A bystander, or witness, is anyone who sees a dangerous or unsafe situation. Bystanders may or may not know what to do, or may expect others to do something to help. Research shows that educating and engaging bystanders is a promising way to help prevent the widespread problem of sexual violence within communities.

Checklist for Bystander Action:

Questions to ask BEFORE I take action:

  1. Am I aware there is a problem or risky situation?
  2. Do I recognize someone needs help?
  3. Do I see others and myself as part of the solution?

Questions to ask DURING the situation:

  1. How can I keep myself safe?
  2. What are my available options?
  3. Are there others I may call for help?
  4. What are the benefits/costs for taking action?

Decision to take action:

  1. When to act?

How to Intervene:

See violence for what it is.

A lot of times, we don't want to admit that violence is happening. We often choose to ignore the situation, look away, or call it something else. It is important to remember that no one has the right to be violent, even if two people are dating. Examples of violence include grabbing someone, hitting, pushing, yelling, or calling names.

Violence doesn't stop violence — use words!

If someone is being abusive, threatening or trying to fight the abusive person is only going to make the situation worse. Instead, ask questions like "Is everything okay?" while looking at both people. It's a way to interrupt the fight without causing more drama.

Don't silence or ignore the victim.

Be sure that you don't put all the focus on the abuser. The victim's voice should be heard and respected. Ignoring victims makes it seem like their feelings and voice don't matter.

Learn from the situation.

What could have been different? Did you respect the victim's rights? Did you avoid violence? Talk to your peers and get their perspective on the situation.

Remember, violence doesn't end after one action.

Sometimes the violence will continue, or the people will stay together. This can be frustrating, but it's important to remember that while you can't control what another person is going to do, you can take a stand against violence.


CSU, Chico

Counseling and Wellness Center

University Police

Gender and Sexual Equity Center

Judicial Affairs

Community Resources:

Catalyst Domestic Violence Services

Rape Crisis Intervention

Chico Police